TEACHER TALKS UPDATE: SD43 walkout and lockout details

School District 43 board chair Melissa Hyndes, left, and Coquitlam Teachers
School District 43 board chair Melissa Hyndes, left, and Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Charley King are following teacher bargaining closely. Tomorrow SD43 teachers will walk out as part of rotating job action in the province.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE

The planned teachers' walkout in School District 43 will go ahead tomorrow, Wednesday, and principals and management staff will be in schools but don't expect classes to go ahead, says superintendent Tom Grant.

Picket lines are expected to go up early and last all day, Grant said, and parents are advised to keep their children at home or make other arrangements because there will be no unionized employees to provide classroom instruction or other supports although administrators will be on hand for limited supervision.

However, daycare operators who run programs in schools will be permitted to cross the picket line but it will be their decision as to whether they stay open and they must convey their decisions to their clients, Grant confirmed.

Tomorrow's walkout will be day three of a series of rotating strikes initiated by the BC Teachers' Federation to back contract demands, and Grant said in addition to safety and instructional issues, parents should keep their kids at home to avoid putting their children in the midst of a difficult situation.


"I would suggest that parents not send their kids to schools because they would be putting them in the midst of that labour negotiation," Grant said.

"I think there will be lots of angst amongst parents, teachers, support staff and administrators. There's lot of concern," Grant acknowledged, and he expressed hope that the BCTF and the government come to a resolution because the uncertainty surrounding negotiations is causing stress and "the longer it goes on, I think, the harder it will be to filter message and to understand what is going on."

Below: Coquitlam district teachers rallied in Port Coquitlam Friday

Teacher's rally

For the Coquitlam Teachers' Association, Wednesday's walkout is about getting the provincial government to put class size and composition on the bargaining table and present a "fair" wage offer.

President Charley King said teachers are prepared to stand together in the dispute to raise awareness about their concerns even if it means losing a day's pay plus an additional 10% while an employer lockout is in force.

"What we're hoping is for some movement at the table and the employer starts to climb down from what they've put at the table," said King, adding that the situation could escalate if there is no change by the end of the week.

However, bargaining continues today Tuesday.

Board chair Melissa Hyndes expressed support for the teachers and said she and her fellow trustees won't be crossing picket lines but will have conference calls to track the situation rather than meeting at SD43 job sites.

"I won't' be on the picket line but I'm fully supportive of their plight right now," she said, noting that the board is behind teachers. "There' not one board member that isn't on board.," Hyndes said.


Meanwhile, school events are being closely watched as the district and teachers try to interpret the lockout imposed by the BC Public School Employers' Association. Both Grant and King said they've been inundated with questions as to what activities are allowed and what are not under the rules.

The district has sent parents a BCPSEA FAQ sheet saying that all extra curricular activities and volunteer work can proceed as normal.

But King said some the rules are confusing for events tied to student marks, such as drama or music concerts and could be considered teachers' work. As well, there is uncertainty as to whether teachers are protected by the Workers' Compensation Board coverage while doing volunteer activities at school outside of lockout imposed time restrictions. Because of the uncertainty, and because of a 10% wage cut, some teachers are opting not to do these activities, King said.

At Terry Fox, for example, teachers ate lunch out on the curb because they aren't supposed to be doing teacher work during that time, and extra curricular and teachers' volunteer work has been banned at Charles Best.


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